Whether you are going through a divorce, separation or were never officially a couple in the first place, navigating the initial stages of co-parenting can be incredibly challenging. The years ahead will come with their share of parental hurdles. However, co-parenting on a solid foundation of mutual respect, communication and understanding can make the whole process much less stressful for everyone involved.
Are you already letting out a quick laugh at the thought of getting along with your child’s other parent? We never said that this process was going to be straightforward, but with a commitment to your child’s best interests, it’s certainly possible.
Child custody decisions are made in the best interests of the child. However, ideally, both parents can come to a mutual agreement before getting to the point of a lengthy and expensive court proceeding. Battling for custody in court is a draining process that adds immense emotional and financial stress to all involved. Besides, every action or decision that you have previously made can be brought up in court, which can exacerbate your feelings of animosity towards the other party.
For many parents, legal proceedings are inevitable to ensure that family law works in their favor. Regardless of whether standing in front of a judge seems an unavoidable outcome, the following top tips can help with the emotional and physical needs of your child while you navigate the initial stages of co-parenting.
Believe that co-parenting is possible
In order to co-parent successfully, you actually need to believe that it is possible to begin with. Perhaps it isn’t conceivable with your child’s other parent, but you need to trust that co-parenting is an acceptable and valid way of raising a child through to adulthood.
Call a ceasefire
You don’t need to forgive and forget completely, and a ceasefire doesn’t need to be agreed upon by both parties or even spoken aloud. However, for your own mental health and that of your child, drawing a line in the sand is needed for successful and effective co-parenting moving forward.
Don’t make your children messengers
Children are intuitive and will internalize if you are avoiding conversations with their other parent. Being civil with a person you don’t see eye to eye with is an important life skill to learn and showcase to your children.
Don’t ridicule the other parent
It is not fair to make derogatory or disparaging comments about the other parent in front of your children or when they are in earshot. Ensure that your friends and family watch what they say and how they react when the other parent is mentioned in conversation. Kids are smarter than you think and your role is to help them through this confusing time.
Accept that this will take time
Being a parent and being a co-parent is forever. You may feel entwined in the here and now and the stress of day-to-day existence, but the baby steps made towards better understanding, acceptance, and communication will be worthwhile. One day, you might be organizing a wedding or waiting while your first grandchild is born, and you don’t want your child to have to choose which of you will be in attendance.
Co-parenting takes consistent and enduring commitment to put your children’s mental, physical and financial needs at the forefront. Any feelings of animosity towards your former partner will not go away overnight; however, we are here to tell you that it is feasible to successfully co-parent if all parties are willing to adhere to unofficial guidelines.